Montreal trio puts music ahead of ego

by Amber Goodwyn


The Exchange
Friday 14

If you’re desperately seeking excellent and substantial music for the late blooming summer ahead, you need look no further than UBTs new record Ego Orientation on Psychic Handshake Records. Formerly Uncle Bad Touch, UBT is a fierce Montreal trio of dyed in the wool music heads who share a love for “sunshine psychedelia”.

The band includes Mikey Heppner (of metal band Priestess), Kathryn McCaughey, and Gabe Rousseau. And the three have crafted one of the coolest records I’ve listened to in a long time: lots of fun, summery, good time garage pop rock, but with nutty prog and psych-inflected moments (hello flutes, harmonized guitar, hand claps) that feel effortless.

When I reached Heppner by phone at his apartment one morning in early June, it was like I’d dropped a direct line into a music-saturated realm of the unreal. The sort of place folks dream about when they think of moving to Montreal to join a band — a jam/living space in the Plateau, a quick walk from any number of busy venues.

Heppner unwittingly adds to my lifestyle envy when he describes his and roommate Kathryn’s songwriting process. “Over coffee we’re like, ‘Aw, I’ve got this tune in my head!’ ‘Oh cool, let’s go into the middle room and play guitar and figure out a song for that, and then, you know, demo it.’”

So captivating a picture did he paint that when I started writing this article I had to stop for a few minutes and noodle on my guitar before continuing — and that’s a good thing.

Ego Orientation is bursting with the light-hearted confidence of talented songwriters and players who have fun making music they love. The album was tracked quickly in studio and then brought home so that vocals, percussion, and yes, flute and the like, could be added without time and cash constraints.

Recalling UBT’s relationship with the young and sure-handed label Psychic Handshake, which started with a conversation between friends at a party, the album art for Ego Orientation depicts a strange gathering in an odd demi-monde.

The cover was done by an artist friend of Heppner’s named Jeremy Shantz. “It’s a very detailed realistic painting of two sasquatch teenagers hanging out in their little ol’ secret party cave, watching the sunrise after the party,” Heppner says. “I kind of sketched out what I was thinking. And he was like, ‘I can make a model for this.’ I was like, ‘No way’. But then he made a big model and took a picture of it.”

Ego Orientation is a compelling title for a rock record. Heppner says it was inspired by a Simpsons episode where a self-help guru comes to town and Marge complains about someone’s “ego orientation”.

After deciding on the name, UBT looked up the phrase and discovered that it was also a sports psychology term for an athlete who measures success by the defeat of their rivals. Clearly, this unintentional second meaning comes with no small amount of irony as UBT are nice folks who, having released a stellar new record, have nothing to prove to anyone.

See for yourself on June 14 when they’re in town to play a show at the Exchange with the Regina post-punk band Empire Choir.